Few people at Brigham Young University get to honestly say they live the life of a cougar.
For six men, however, being a cougar is their walk and talk. For at least a couple hours per game, that is.
“It’s just another opportunity to entertain,” said Stephen Jones, a recent graduate of BYU from Tallahassee, Fla. “Even if they don’t know who I am. That’s what I love to do the most.”
This opportunity to entertain includes hours of practicing, rehearsing, performing and keeping the secrets of one of the most well known superstars on campus: Cosmo the Cougar.
These people are required to try out through a group called Team Cosmo, using their charisma and talent to land a role as one of the six main men who play the mascot.
“Mainly what we look for is a gymnastics type background like tumbling skills, the ability to dance and not look like an idiot when music comes on and then the third thing we look for is personality and character of the students,” said Stuart Call, of BYU Athletic Marketing and part of Team Cosmo, representing the public relations liaison.
In addition to the six, Call said there are also understudies and others who come to practices and help push the main Cosmos and bring new ideas to the table. They are all part of Team Cosmo.
“Team Cosmo is kind of like a brotherhood,” Call said. “Everyone has each other’s backs.”
This includes keeping the secret of who is under the costume, which could be one of the most difficult parts of being a Cosmo.
Jones, star of the Harold B. Lee Library commercial “New Spice,” played one of the Cosmos until last year when he graduated with a degree in psychology.
“[The hardest part was] not letting people know about it, keeping it 100 percent secret,” Jones said. “People like to be able to say, ‘That one dude is Cosmo.’”
When Jones played the part of Cosmo, he said there was a rumor going around that there was a black Cosmo. Despite this, he said he still did what he could to keep it a secret.
“I think it’s better to keep it a secret,” Jones said. “I do. Just because when people look down and are like, ‘Dang I love Cosmo,’ that’s what they love. People love to say that they’re with Cosmo.”
This is evident through the multiple Facebook pages of Cosmo, with thousands of friends from the BYU community and continual posts of pictures with Cosmo. Call said the secret of the identity of who is in the costume is to avoid making it any name other than Cosmo behind the mask.
“The secrecy is to keep it away from personal glory and keeping it focused on the allure and mystique and magical feeling that is Cosmo for children and adults alike,” Call said.
Cosmo does more than just basketball and football games. He can be seen at swim meets, BYUSA activities and even private parties. Call said there is a set fee of $300 an hour for outside appearances. Usually if it’s an on-campus group like BYUSA or Cougar United, the fee is about $100 an hour. Sometimes, if it is only once a year or a charity group, Cosmo will appear for free. He is proving to be worth every cent, however, as crowds not only react to the game but to everything Cosmo does.
“You’re just one person, no one knows who you are,” Jones said. “You have control over 60,000 people and their emotions. You can manipulate their action. I don’t even talk, and I can make a gesture and get them all to do it with me.”
Alyssa Smith, an accounting major from Elko, Nev., said Cosmo sometimes keeps her more entertained than the games do.
“I feel like he gets everyone to have school spirit,” Smith said. “He gets everyone a lot more excited about being there and being a cougar. He makes students proud to be a cougar; even when we’re not doing so well, he keeps the student morale up.”
Call said scholarships are given to those who play Cosmo because there is no hourly wage for events, but besides that, the only other benefit is the glory of continuing Cosmo.
“I guess the benefit is you know yourself,” Call said. “You know that everybody loves Cosmo and you are helping to keep the tradition of the best mascot in the country alive. You have your fellow Cosmo brothers that can cheer on your individual successes, and they’ll congratulate you for something cool you did, but other than that it is just walking around campus and have anonymity and hearing people say, ‘Oh man, did you see what Cosmo did?’”